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July 17 2018

Tinder for Cheetahs? Big Cats Are Attracted by Urine Smell
Science-Backed Congress Candidates Rack Up Wins and Losses

Crispr Can Speed Up Nature—and Change How We Grow Food

It took thousands of years for humans to breed a pea-sized fruit into a beautiful beefsteak tomato. Now, with gene editing, scientists can change everything.

Nanocrystal links could lead to better electronics

A new study examines inorganic links between nanoparticles for applications in solar panels, electrons and optical devices.


European Forum on Nanoscale IR Spectroscopy

The forum includes new technology developments and exiting application discoveries made made using photothermal-based nanoIR spectroscopy and scattering SNOM.


The ancient armor of fish—scales—provide clues to hair, feather development

When sea creatures first began crawling and slithering onto land about 385 million years ago, they carried with them their body armor: scales. Fossil evidence shows that the earliest land animals retained scales as a protective feature as they evolved to flourish on terra firma.

Amazon's hopes its Prime Day doesn't go to the dogs

Amazon is hoping customers don't see any more dogs, after early problems on Prime Day meant people trying to shop got only images of the cute canines delivering an apologetic message.

Japan's growing plutonium stockpile fuels fears

Japan has amassed enough plutonium to make 6,000 atomic bombs as part of a programme to fuel its nuclear plants, but concern is growing that the stockpile is vulnerable to terrorists and natural disasters.

Latest nanotechnology books round-up

A collection of new and noteworthy books coming out these weeks.


Nanoelectronics stickers to streamline large-scale Internet-of-Things

Researchers have developed a new fabrication method that makes tiny, thin-film electronic circuits peelable from a surface. The technique not only eliminates several manufacturing steps and the associated costs, but also allows any object to sense its environment or be controlled through the application of a high-tech sticker.


Chemical engineers pack more energy in same space for reliable battery

Electric car batteries souped-up with fluorinated electrolytes for longer-range driving.

July 16 2018


How to improve kidney transplant exchanges

Kidney transplant exchanges are missing out on 25 to 55 percent of live donor matches that might otherwise be possible, according to a new study.

Nearly 100,000 people with failing kidneys are on waiting lists for a kidney transplant in the United States, with an average wait of three to five years. Organs come from one of two sources—from living donors, typically a friend or family member willing to spare one of their own kidneys, or from a transplant donor who has died.

“Small fixes to improve transplant exchanges make economic and medical sense…”

Platforms for kidney exchanges such as the National Kidney Registry and the Alliance for Paired Donation provide a lifeline for people on the waiting list by expanding the pool of potential donors by matching potential recipients with living donors they’ve never met.

Imagine a situation in which a husband is willing to donate to his wife but has a blood type that’s incompatible. An exchange platform, which receives pairs of donors and patients from many different hospitals, can match the husband to a different patient with the same blood type, while simultaneously matching his wife with another donor who has the same type as her.

By linking together many different patient-donor pairs, exchanges make it possible to greatly increase the number of people who can get transplants from living donors. But the new study shows that exchange platforms are not as effective as they could be.

Precious Type O

“Despite significant success, the kidney exchange market suffers from market failures that result in hundreds of lost transplants per year,” the researchers write in the new study.

The reason, they say, is that transplant hospitals are incentivized to match kidney exchanges internally and tend to use exchanges as a last resort. That might be fine, except the researchers found that the hospitals are not as efficient as the exchanges in matching the right donors with the right patients.

The problem begins with the fact that certain kinds of donors and patients are much easier to match than others. A donor with Type O blood can give an organ to people with many different blood types, whereas a Type O patient can only accept a transplant from another Type O. An efficient match, then, would mean connecting relatively scarce Type O donors with Type O patients who most need them.

But when the researchers analyzed the data from thousands of live-donor transplants, they found that with internal hospital swaps, only 77 percent of Type O kidney donations went to Type O patients. By contrast, nearly 94 percent of kidneys from Type O donors on the big exchange platforms went to Type O patients.

Put differently, hospitals that arranged their own matches were transplanting many precious Type O kidneys to patients who could have been matched with organs of other common blood types. Even large hospitals are not large enough to always find efficient matches internally. Exchange platforms, which provide wider pools of donors and recipients, are most effective for making the most difficult matches.

How to change things

Itai Ashlagi, assistant professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, says increasing incentives for hospitals to use the exchange platforms more frequently could improve the system. They should be encouraged to enroll patient-donor pairs that help to generate more transplants.

The first things bodies do to reject a donor organ

Moreover, hospitals face most of the costs involved in participating in kidney exchanges while most of the benefit goes to insurance companies. Costs involve various platform fees, hiring full-time exchange coordinators, doing blood tests, etc. All of these expenses cut sharply into the profit on each surgery.

One potential solution, Ashlagi says, is a point system, a sort of frequent-flier program that gives hospitals extra rewards for supplying high-value donors. For instance, by offering a Type O donor to an exchange, a hospital might earn an extra claim when it tries to get a transplant for one of its patients. This will create a more liquid pool by removing the incentive from matching pairs internally.

Indeed, the National Kidney Exchange has already launched a point system along those lines, though it’s too early to say how much impact it has had.

A frequent-flier program alone will not solve everything. Beyond that, the researchers say, exchanges and perhaps government policymakers should look for ways to compensate hospitals for the exchange-related costs they currently have to absorb on their own. This would be especially important for smaller hospitals that may not participate in transplant exchanges because of the prohibitive costs.

Every additional kidney transplant pays a big health and financial dividend. Transplants generally give patients several years of additional life, compared to remaining on dialysis. Dialysis treatment alone accounts for a whopping 7 percent of Medicare spending, so reductions there would benefit the public purse.

If transplant centers submitted most of their patients and donors to the exchanges, the researchers estimate that an additional 200 to 400 more live-donor transplants would be possible each year. That would translate to an annual savings of $220 million to $440 million to the entire medical system—before accounting for the additional years of productive life for the patients so desperately in need.

Blocking key cells could protect organ transplants

“Small fixes to improve transplant exchanges make economic and medical sense,” Ashlagi says.

The study appears as a working paper on the National Bureau of Economics Research website. Researchers from MIT and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School also contributed to this work.

Source: Stanford University

The post How to improve kidney transplant exchanges appeared first on Futurity.


What Hollywood’s ‘blacklist’ era can teach us today

On March 5, 1946, at Westminster College, in Fulton, Missouri, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared the onset of the Cold War with an image that crystallized American fears of Soviet expansionism abroad and Communist subversion at home.

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent,” intoned Churchill.

“…in the fraught atmosphere of the early Cold War, it was impossible to maintain a moderate position…”

In October 1947, the nation’s fear of Communism spread to the film industry, as the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) held a series of hearings intended to probe subversive communism in Hollywood. The hearings resulted in contempt of Congress charges against the “Hollywood 10,” a group of filmmakers, mostly screenwriters, who refused to cooperate with the committee and were ultimately jailed and banned from working for all of the major studios.

The Hollywood 10 were just the beginning. The hearings ushered in the film industry’s blacklist era and scores more faced bans from work due to their political ideologies in coming years.

Thomas Doherty, a professor of American studies at Brandeis University, has meticulously examined the events that led to the Hollywood blacklist in his new book, Show Trial: Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist (Columbia University Press, 2018). Here, Doherty answers questions about the blacklist and the era’s legacy:

The post What Hollywood’s ‘blacklist’ era can teach us today appeared first on Futurity.


Lack of this stuff in fat may cause obesity and diabetes

The fat molecule cardiolipin controls the energy metabolism of the body’s “brown fat” cells, research finds. The findings also show that the absence of cardiolipin in fat cells is causally linked to pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

“Switching off production of cardiolipin in mice leads to insulin resistance, which is the cornerstone of diabetes.”

Large amounts of cardiolipin produced in the fat cells’ mitochondria—or “powerhouses”—result in stronger calorie-burning, while low amounts of the molecule are related to obesity and type 2 diabetes, the new study shows.

“Brown fat is a fascinating and unique type of fat tissue that actually burns calories rather than stores them,” says Zach Gerhart-Hines, associate professor at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research at the University of Copenhagen and senior author of the study.

“Now we have learned that the fat molecule, cardiolipin, functions almost like an ‘on-off switch’ for the activity of our brown fat. Switching off production of cardiolipin in mice leads to insulin resistance, which is the cornerstone of diabetes.”

Insulin resistance

The study, published in Cell Metabolism, started out by examining what happens in the fat cells of mice exposed to cold, which pushes brown fat to burn energy at full throttle. The researchers found that the mitochondria produced a lot of cardiolipin. However, in order to understand how this could affect energy balance and health, they had to develop new tools.

“We generated mouse models in which we could switch off cardiolipin production in brown fat. After decreasing cardiolipin levels, the mice became insulin resistant and thus provided a clear link to diabetes,” Gerhart-Hines explains.

“What really surprised us was that when we turned up the production of cardiolipin in both mouse and human fat cells, we increased the amount of calories the fat cells were able to burn.”

The researchers further uncovered promising evidence that strongly suggests the scientific findings are relevant to humans.

When they investigated the genetics of metabolic disease, they found that people with a gene mutation linked to low cardiolipin production have a higher risk of being overweight and developing type 2 diabetes than others.

Time to boost cardiolipin?

The researchers also examined the levels of the enzyme that makes cardiolipin in fat cells from healthy and diabetic patients. They found that fat cells from healthy, insulin-sensitive people had significantly more cardiolipin-producing enzyme.

How a person’s own fat could one day treat diabetes

“We’re excited that what we find in the petri dish and animal models seems to also be true in humans. This could open up new approaches to improve metabolic health by finding ways to boost the amount of cardiolipin in the body’s fat cells,” says Elahu Sustarsic, the postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen who led the work.

This work reveals that a single fat molecule in the powerhouse of fat cells can have a profound influence on the health of the whole body. The researchers now hope to uncover ways to boost cardiolipin in fat cells to increase insulin sensitivity and combat metabolic disease.

Tweak lets mice eat high-fat diet but stay lean

Researchers from Harvard Medical School, the Helmholtz Diabetes Center in Germany, and several Danish institutions including the University of Southern Denmark and University of Copenhagen contributed to the project.

Funding came from the European Research Council, the Independent Research Fund Denmark–Medical Sciences, the American National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the Danish Diabetes Academy, and the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Source: University of Copenhagen

The post Lack of this stuff in fat may cause obesity and diabetes appeared first on Futurity.


Political split on climate change isn’t so wide after all

Just how far apart are Republicans and Democrats when it comes to views on climate change? Not all that far, a new study suggests. They’re just too party-focused to notice.

Researchers surveyed 2,000 adults and discovered that across party lines, there is general agreement that climate change is real, that it is caused by human activity, and that something should be done to mitigate it.

The study also reveals that people are more likely to support the same climate policy proposal when they think that their own political party supports it. Further, both Democrats and Republicans overestimate how much their peers oppose the ideas of the other party.

“Democratic and Republican citizens alike evaluate a carbon tax or cap and trade policy based on who proposed it—above and beyond their thoughts on the details of the policy, or on whether it is consistent with their beliefs about the importance of climate change,” says David Sherman, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and senior author of the paper, which appears in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

“They do this despite stating themselves that policy considerations should be more important than partisanship.”

“We found that people routinely place party over policy and disagree for the sake of disagreeing,” says lead author Leaf Van Boven, a psychology and neuroscience professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

“If you want to know who will support a climate policy, just look at which political party supports it. Climate change belief alone is not the whole story.”

Researchers set out to explore the psychological reasons that—despite warnings about economic, social, and humanitarian impacts of climate change—US lawmakers have yet to enact a national policy. Previous studies and conventional wisdom suggested this was primarily because most Republicans are skeptical of climate change.

So the researchers conducted two studies in 2014 and 2016 with diverse national panels of over 2,000 US adults, asking: Is climate change happening? Does it pose a risk to humans? Is human activity responsible? And can reducing greenhouse gas emissions reduce climate change?

Sixty-six percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Independents, and 90 percent of Democrats said they believed in human-caused climate change and the utility of reducing greenhouse gases.

“Just before the presidential election when most Republicans were voting for Trump, who characterized climate change as a ‘hoax,’ they nevertheless expressed a belief in climate change,” notes Van Boven.

As part of the 2014 study, the researchers showed participants one of two proposed policies. One was a cap-and-trade policy that historically has been championed by Democrats. The other was a revenue-neutral carbon tax based on policies recently advocated by Republicans. Participants were told that 95 percent of Republicans and 10 percent of Democrats supported the policy, or vice versa.

Regardless of the content, Democrats supported policies from Democrats more strongly, and Republicans supported policies from Republicans more strongly.

“If you want to know who will support a climate policy, just look at which political party supports it,” says Phil Ehret, who just completed his PhD in social psychology. “Climate change belief alone is not the whole story.”

In a related study of 500 people, the authors used actual language from a proposed climate change policy that was part of ballot initiative I-732 in Washington State in 2016.

Not all Republicans think alike on climate change

The researchers highlighted either Democrats or Republicans who genuinely supported or opposed the policy to the study volunteers and found similar results.

“What is more, people anticipate that others, their fellow Republican and Democratic citizens will be even more polarized and influenced by political party than they actually are,” Sherman says.

“This creates a false norm of consensus and unanimity within each party that, for example, other Republicans will reject any policy proposed by Democrats. This perception of within-party unanimity makes it very difficult to cross party lines.”

Does your county believe in climate change? Check the map

Distrust of the other side, combined with a false assumption that the two parties sharply disagree makes it difficult for good, bipartisan ideas to gain traction, the researchers say.

“One of the foundational insights of social psychology is the under-appreciated influence of social norms and that actions are determined more by perceptions of norms than the actual norms,” Sherman says. “It is crucially important for lawmakers and voters alike to be informed about what others actually think about environmental issues such as climate change.

“There are many reasons the media focuses on differences between partisans,” he adds, “but our work shows why it is important to highlight this strong consensus as well as the even stronger consensus that citizens should evaluate policies on their details and impact and ability to address problems, and not based on which party proposes them.”

Source: UC Santa Barbara

The post Political split on climate change isn’t so wide after all appeared first on Futurity.


When math teachers change mindset, student grades go up

When teachers reexamine how they were taught math and their perceptions of their ability, student test scores and attitudes about math dramatically improve, according to a new study.

The research, which appears in the journal Education Sciences, shows that fifth-grade teachers who took an online class designed to give them a different approach to mathematics teaching and learning, achieved significantly higher test results for their students compared with a control group of teachers in the same schools who did not take the class.

“As teachers reevaluate their own potential as learners, they are more likely to embrace new forms of teaching.”

Student achievement increased when teachers changed their mindset from believing only some students could learn math well to believing that all students could succeed, says coauthor Jo Boaler, a professor at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. The increase was particularly significant for girls, English language learners, and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

“When teachers adopt a ‘growth mindset’ about maths, the gains are notable especially in light of the fact that the effects of successful educational programs are often quite modest,” says Boaler, who uses the plural form of math to reflect her British roots and belief in the subject’s depth and diversity. “As teachers reevaluate their own potential as learners, they are more likely to embrace new forms of teaching. This helps their students build confidence, develop positive attitudes, and, ultimately, achieve better test scores.”

The new research is one of the few studies to look at the impact that a growth mindset, taught through an online class, can have on teachers’ perceptions of their own skills and those of their students.

It also provides evidence to the benefit of mindset interventions that incorporate changes to teaching and approach, not just changes in what is says in a classroom.

“Mindset interventions will never achieve their full impact if they remain only as words, and put the onus on students to change, while teachers continue to transmit fixed ideas through their teaching,” says Boaler, the executive director of Youcubed, a center that provides math content, courses, and materials for educators and students.

In a related analysis published this spring, Boaler found significant improvements in test scores, engagement, and attitudes among middle school math students who took a student online class with similar messages, and who switched from a “fixed” to a “growth” mindset.

To hear Boaler tell it, elementary school math instruction in the United States and throughout the western world is “stuck in the Victorian age.” Procedures and rote memorization still dominate, despite ample evidence that the exploration of ideas, concepts, and creativity works. Studies show that math teachers are more likely than other subject-specific instructors to think their students’ abilities are static.

“The idea that only some people can be successful in maths is at the root of widespread anxiety about the subject, in the United States and elsewhere,” says Boaler. According to the most recent comparisons available, the United States ranked 40th out of 72 countries in math achievement in 2016.

Boaler and her collaborators wanted to know what would happen if math educators looked inward and challenged their own ideas about who can learn math and how. As part of their study, teachers would also revisit the messaging they internalized as young math students.

The researchers recruited 40 fifth-grade teachers from eight school districts in Central California to take an online course, “How to Learn Math,” through Stanford’s OpenEdX platform. The participants also engaged in a series of in-person meetings to share their experiences in the course and strategies for putting its ideas into practice.

In both contexts, teachers learned about new brain science and effective teaching methods as part of what the researchers are calling a “Mathematical Mindset Approach.”

To measure results, the scholars relied on a combination of interviews with the teachers, written observations of their classroom work, surveys of students and the teachers, and results from a statewide math test.

Why you shouldn’t say ‘girls are as good as boys at math’

In follow-up surveys and interviews, teachers described how the course and in-person meetings fundamentally changed their approach to math lessons. They shared the neuroscience findings about brain plasticity with their students. They encouraged them to share ideas and alternative ways of solving math problems. They countered notions that best in math means fast in math. They taught students to embrace their mistakes.

Students, for their part, reported feeling more engaged and positive about math—and their test scores reflected that newfound optimism. Among all students whose teachers participated in the study, math scores on a key California assessment test rose nearly eight points—the equivalent of almost three and a half months of additional lessons—compared with a control group.

For girls, English learners, and economically disadvantaged students, the payoff was especially large: Girls’ performance on the test translated to six months’ worth of additional instruction, English learners gained nine months, and economically disadvantaged students advanced nearly five months.

Boaler attributes the three groups’ rapid progress to the fact that they typically underperform in math and harbor views that they cannot achieve, so changing those ideas had a larger impact.

Boaler says the teacher study—and the earlier one focused on students and their attitudes about math learning—offers hope for education reformers at home and abroad.

Small groups narrow math gap for low-income kids

“Change in math performance can happen,” says Boaler. “But it’s critical that damaging mindsets shift, among students and their teachers.”

Additional researchers from Stanford also contributed to the work. The study’s funding came from the Technology for Equity in Learning Opportunities (TELOS) initiative.

Source: Krysten Crawford for Stanford University

The post When math teachers change mindset, student grades go up appeared first on Futurity.


Intimate partner violence is just as common in male couples

Nearly half the men in a new study about intimate partner violence in male couples reported being the victim of abuse.

The findings show that in addition to universal stressors–finances, unemployment, drug abuse–that both heterosexual and male couples share, experiences of homophobia and other factors unique to male couples also predict abuse among them.

The study is one of the few that looks at violence from the perspective of both members of male couples (abuser and victim), says Rob Stephenson, a professor of nursing and director of the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities at the University of Michigan.

Most studies examining domestic violence look at female victims in heterosexual couples or have only asked questions of one member of a male couple.

Nearly half (46 percent) of the 320 men (160 couples) in the study reported experiencing some form of intimate partner violence in the last year—physical and sexual violence, emotional abuse, and controlling behavior.

“If you just looked at physical and sexual violence in male couples, it’s about 25 to 30 percent, roughly the same as women,” Stephenson says. “We’re stuck in this mental representation of domestic violence as a female victim and a male perpetrator, and while that is very important, there are other forms of domestic violence in all types of relationships.”

Does stigma keep same-sex couples from talking about abuse?

The research is important because it debunks that stereotype, and accounts for controlling and isolating behaviors as well as physical abuse, Stephenson says.

Ultimately, violence links back to HIV prevention because men in abusive relationships may find it hard to negotiate for condom use or even when and how they have sex, Stephenson says. Nor is there good communication about HIV status and HIV prevention in abusive relationships.

Teen dating violence cuts both ways

The new study, which appears in American Journal of Men’s Health, makes a strong connection between internalized homophobia and violence, Stephenson says. A gay man who’s struggling with his identity might lash out at his partner with physical or emotional abuse as a stress response behavior—similar to heterosexual couples, where an unemployed man lashes out at his female partner because he feels inadequate.

Stephenson says the majority of clinicians don’t ask male couples about violence, but says they should.

Source: University of Michigan

The post Intimate partner violence is just as common in male couples appeared first on Futurity.


These tiny tree shrews can handle hotter peppers than you

tree shrew in branch

And now we know why they can handle the heat

Spicy food doesn’t hurt you directly–it’s not poison–but your body thinks it’s getting real burns and reacts accordingly. Mammals who aren’t us steer clear of the…
Single-celled architects inspire new nanotechnology
New Aussie snake already at risk
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